The Structures of War

A roadside altar, a windmill, a burning house.

The following photographs were included in 82, published by AMC Books in 2013 and edited by David Thomson. Chosen from a selection of soldier’s personal photo albums, these structures from the Second World War are presented outside the usual war documentarian’s gaze. These spaces are inhabited by decay and death, surrounded by the silence that exists in the margins of conflict.

The title of this two-volume set gives little clue to the content beyond the fact that 82 photos are included in each volume. Like some bureaucratic code, it marks but does not describe. All the images included in the two volumes date from WWII and none were taken by professional photographers. In the back of each volume, the images are exhibited at their actual size, like specimens, showing both front and back sides. In the front sections, meanwhile, the same images are enlarged, and we can travel inside them. The edit is like a guidebook to the stratified emotions that exist in our warlike nature. Volume 1 gives us a fleeting glance at the temporal nature of material culture as it rides alongside unfolding conflict. Volume 2 draws on the human cost. 82 is like no other narrative you will have seen before and is so layered that no amount of analysis will end in a firm conclusion.

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